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Teach Your Dog New Behaviors

In the last blog we went over some of our favorite behaviors to include as foundations for obedience and how to ask for them once your dog already knows them.

Today we are going to go over the first step in how to teach any new behavior.

To begin teaching a new behavior, it’s a good idea to have a couple of words that your dog understands that mean they did something right (aka marker words).

At Happy With Dogs we use 3 marker words in our programs, to see them in action, check out this video:

We will go over how to introduce these later in the blog. Teaching a New Behavior Step 1: Set you and your dog up for success

Figure out what your dog loves the most and use that in your training

At Happy With Dogs, we teach all new behaviors using something the dog loves, which is typically food, and occasionally toys.

It’s important that your dog really digs whatever you are using to teach because it helps them get invested in the game and excited to work with you.

Let’s look at an example

You love to pet your dog and they truly seem to enjoy it, but prefer eating awesome food to receiving a scratch on the head.

In this case you will motivate your dog to learn more and faster using food in your training instead of head pats.

For most people, food will be what is used for training, so we will focus on this method here.

If you want more info on training with toys please leave a comment and if there is interest we can create an entire blog about just that.

Assuming we will use food, have a pouch that you can put food into so it is easily accessible as you train. This will make your training life WAY better.

You won’t waste time having to go grab food from the bowl or counter and you won’t confuse your dog with lots of unnecessary movement and body language.

Any kind of fanny pack or treat pouch that is easy to put your hand in and get food out quickly will work.

Start in a low distraction environment and someplace the dog is comfortable.

Similar to how it is easier for most humans to learn in a library instead of at a concert, it is easier for dogs to learn in a quiet space without much distraction.

Later during training we will add distractions on purpose to help the dog focus through them, but for the initial teaching it will make the learning happen faster to minimize them.

So let’s talk about some common distractions for dogs

Movement. Dogs are built to perceive movement in the environment, so things moving across the floor, blowing in the wind, or people walking around will pull your dogs attention away from training.

Sounds. Dogs are naturally curious, or frightened by, new sounds, sudden sounds, or extreme changes in volume. Finding a quiet space to train, or playing some consistent calm background music to help mask sounds outside can help your dog focus on you.

Scents. Dogs noses are incredible and they get a lot of information about the world from what they smell. Training outside or in new environments can be difficult for many dogs because there are so many scents to explore. Many dogs will not feel comfortable thinking about anything else until they smell everything in the room, or in the case of outside, every time the wind blows in a new scent they may want to go check it out.

Keep sessions short (5-10 minutes). A couple short sessions a day will tend to be more effective than one really long session and it keeps your dog excited to continue learning.

End on a success!

Your dog will be much more likely to want to train again if the session ends with them doing something correctly and being rewarded than if they end doing something incorrectly and not getting a reward.

Make sure your dog has a rockstar ending to each session.

Teach Marker Words, for the purposes of this blog, we will use just two of them, Good and Yes.

Good=great job, stay where you are, food will be delivered to your mouth

Yes=great job, stop what you are doing and come take food from my hand Teaching the dogs these words is simple and a lot of fun.

Here is how it’s done

  1. Say the word without moving (no grabbing food from your pouch while you speak, no hand gestures or body movement)
  2. Right after speaking the word, grab a piece of food and deliver it
  3. For good, bring the food to your dogs mouth wherever they are at
  4. For yes, make sure your dog is aware of the food in your hand and move it away from them so they need to physically come get it from you. If you are struggling with this leave us a comment and I can provide more detail

The reason you don’t want to speak and feed at the same time is because it makes it harder for your dog to separate that when they hear the word, food is on the way.

Do this over and over until when you say the word, you see your dog look to your hand or treat pouch expecting the food.

Once they have connected that the word means food is on the way, you can use it to help teach new behaviors.

In our next blog and video we will show you how to use these markers to teach behavior.

Stay tuned and see you soon!

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Happy With Dogs Miami

Happy With Dogs Miami

Rebecca was born in Howell, Michigan, and grew up on a livestock farm with 4 siblings and many loving creatures.

Growing up she played rugby and enjoyed showing livestock in 4H, but her passion was for dog training.